On Saturday, Susanna Kearsley's The Firebird ( A | BN | K | ARe ) won the RITA® for Best Paranormal at the 2014 RWA convention. While I had no idea that was going to happen, I'm a little extra excited, because I'd been working on a Q&A with the Sourcebooks art and productions departments about the making of her covers, and had planned to post it today. Yay for timing!
Season of Storms is Kearsley's newest novel, and it comes out on 2 September 2014 – and yes, it is up for preorder now at Amazon and BN. Kearsley's cover art is pretty unique, so my nosy questions began there. Sarah Cardillo, director of production at Sourcebooks, provided the answers – because a Q&A with two Sarahs is always better than a Q&A with just one!
Sarah W: The Kearsley covers have a very specific and unique “look” to them. How did you go about developing that look?
The Winter Sea
( A | BN | K | ARe | iB )
Sarah C: The first book we published, The Winter Sea, was the work of a fantastic cover designer, Kelly Eismann. As a design team, it was one of the earliest “women's fiction” titles we published and having Kelly develop the cover was a big deal for us. She really led the way in creating what would become signature elements used in every Susanna Kearsley cover.
Kelly spent a lot of time reading the book and reviewing Susanna's extensive notes about the time and place, the emotions of the story and the characters. In the end, the cover she submitted for The Winter Sea was perfect.
The soft focus on the character helped create a feeling of timelessness and we liked how the woman feels like she's heading somewhere, and you want to follow her.
Sarah W: What elements are you hoping to capture with the covers? What are the major components that carry over from book to book?
The Shadowy Horses
( A | BN | K | ARe | iB)
Sarah C: After The Winter Sea, we wanted to develop Susanna’s next books with that same feeling in mind.
It was easy enough to keep “the look”: the fonts, the title and author branding, the torn brown paper edges, but we also felt that it was essential that the imagery have that feeling of timelessness, and also give the reader the desire to follow the woman into the story. You don't know where she's going, where she's been, or WHEN in time she's from, but you get a sense that she needs to be followed, and you won't be disappointed if you do.
Susanna's stories are rich with character development. That's one of the things we continually see in reviews—readers fall in love with her characters. As designers you want to find that element that readers fall in love with and give that to them visually on the cover.
Sarah W: Do you use stock art or do you do a photo shoot for your own usage?
Sarah C: All art is stock but none of the covers end up with just a stock image with type. There's a lot of Photoshop work done to get the image to where it ends up, and I think that work adds to the timelessness element. You don't feel like you are looking at a snapshot of a woman you may already know or a story you've already heard.
All of our artists since Kelly have spent a lot of time going over the manuscript and going through very thorough notes from Susanna about imagery and scenes. Susanna also sends us images that speak to her, and why.
We get a very real and deep sense of the story and imagery from her.
Sarah W: Can you share some alternate ideas for this book that were discarded (and maybe why you didn't use them)?
Sarah C: We looked at a little over 30 covers when working on Season of Storms. The alternative covers were too specific, too dark, too flat. The woman in the flapper type dress gave you a specific time and place to associate with the image.
The woman in the mask, while interesting, doesn’t have the quality of a woman you want to learn about – to read her story. We worked through variations of these 3 concepts mostly, trying to find the right balance of light and movement and just enough intrigue and detail to make a bookstore or online shopper stop and wonder about the book.
The final cover (below right) has great light and movement, and the palette we chose is actually reminiscent of the cover we did for The Firebird.
Sarah W: What’s next for Kearsley’s covers?
Sarah C: We are right in the middle of planning a “refresh” for Susanna’s next book, coming in spring 2015. As much as we love Susanna's covers, we feel the time is right to breathe some fresh air into them.
The challenge in front of us is how to do that while still keeping the many elements we love. We want to stay faithful to her as a brand and as an author, and also create a fresh look for her books. The cover design world changes so fast, it's easy for a design to feel dated just in fonts and type set up. It's an exciting time for our team!
I want to thank Sarah Castillo for answering all my questions – and the lovely folks at Sourcebooks who have offered up some finished copies of the book to give away. Unfortunately, this giveaway is US-only, because that's where Sourcebooks has the rights to Kearsely's work (I'm sorry, all of y'all who are elsewhere!). I'm throwing in three digital pre-order copies, too, which are (alas) also US-only. (I'm really sorry y'all! I still think you're most excellent and have terrific taste).
I'm giving Rafflecopter another try, after doing some research that indicated increased accessibility for their widgets. If you have any trouble at all, please email me and I'm happy to help you!
Standard disclaimers apply: I'm not being compensated for this giveaway. Void where prohibited. Open to US residents where permitted by applicable law. Must be over 18 and ready to rock or possibly run down a rock path in a nightgown. Whereas, upon participation in the contest as aforesaid, said participant shall nonetheless deliver hereunto all such paraphernalia as reasonably necessary and appropriate. By submitting an entry to the contest as set forth herein, each entrant does acknowledge and agree that, in the event such entrant is victorious, such entrant will perform a ceremony reasonably appropriate to such circumstance, including, without limitation, the Electric Slide. I'll select the winners at random on Friday 1 August 2014.
Giveaway aside, I am curious: does cover art like this capture your attention? Do you think the imagery fits Kearsley's writing style?